Labeling Electronic Music: Addressing Concerns of Electric Genre - Washington College Elm

Written by Erik Anderson. Posted in News Feed

By Jeremy Quintin
Staff Columnist

It’s no secret that Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is under a lot of fire these days, from average listeners to professional musicians alike. Though the genre has received a generally positive response, there remains a number of slanderous remarks which all attempt to depict dance music as nothing more than a laugh.

EDM has carried with it a heavy stigma long before coming into the popular eye of the music industry. Long before Skrillex or Flux Pavilion entered the scene, before Daft Punk or The Chemical Brothers, before Aphex Twin, and perhaps as far back as Praga Khan, by which point I’ve probably lost all my readers, there has been this stigma that dance music is not actual music. “Making electronic music is easy,” they say, “It’s just kick, snare, synth, and win.”

These words have been put into circulation by those who haven’t given EDM the chance to prove itself. That circulation has increased with the advent of EDM into popular media. The issue, however, is not with the music but with the uninformed opinions which try to criticize the genre before having any real conception of the skill and difficulties that go into its production. So let’s shed light on a few popular rumors that simply aren’t true, shall we?

The most frustrating rumor I’ve heard is that making electronic music is easy because you can do it all from a computer. In reality, anything is easy depending on how good a job you want to do. If you don’t care about the quality of your song’s final product, then sure it’s easy. Just slap some drums and instrumental lines together and you’re done. If, however, you want to make an absolutely head-banging, house-dropping heavy hitter, then you have to put a lot more effort into it.

A good dance track takes into consideration not only soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, but also white noise, low hums, and the tiniest of tidbits which change a sort-of-cool synth into an unforgettable one. Artists like Noisia spend literal days crafting and perfecting individual sounds which might not last longer than 30 seconds in a track. While a rock band has the daunting task of getting its instruments to work perfectly together, an EDM producer has to write out and genuinely invent the instruments in his or her work, crossing areas of expertise in order to create the best possible track. As someone who has had to sit through these grueling tasks, take it from me that it’s not easy.

Another classic rumor is that all EDM is really repetitive. This is true only of certain genres like techno or house, but even then that repetition is created with the interest of being able to do a lot more to a song at a live show, which additionally tackles the concern that DJs can’t make songs sound fresh at a performance. On the contrary, electronic hardware companies provide DJs with an ever-growing tool set that makes their options for mixing arguably boundless. At a show, what might sound like a complete track could easily be three songs mashed together live. The power of repetition offstage is what makes this onstage action possible.

I will submit and say that there is a large portion of EDM out there which is too repetitive. Such songs are not examples of what I would use to describe good production technique anymore than someone would use a poorly cooked meal as an example of how good food can taste. Truly good examples like Breakbeat and Neurofunk incorporate syncopated polyrhythmic patterns that change constantly throughout a track.

These are the largest concerns I’ve heard about EDM, and they aren’t founded in much more than a false sense of how electronic production works. That a DJ does not play an actual instrument says nothing on his or her ability to compose a tune.

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